by Steven Ertelt
November 13, 2006
Santiago, Chile (LifeNews.com) — A Chile appeals court has unanimously upheld a lower court’s decision to allow the government there to distribute the morning after pill to minor teenagers without their parent’s knowledge or consent. The nation’s Health Ministry instituted the plan in September and it produced strong dissent from the Catholic church and local officials.
Health Minister María Soledad Barría, who has strongly condemned church leaders and pro-life advocates for opposing the program, said she was pleased with the decision.
“The court has agreed with the ministry, saying we have the right to make regulations regarding reproductive health, including the distribution of the morning-after pill," she told the Santiago Times newspaper.
The three fathers who had challenged the program said they have a right to direct their own children’s upbringing, including their sexual decision-making. They told the newspaper they would appeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to the nation’s Supreme Court.
The Chile government plans to move ahead with its plan and Barría announced hours after the ruling that local health clinics would get state instructions on how to distribute the morning after pill.
After the government announced the morning after pill program, mayors in several cities refused to abide by it in health clinics in their jurisdictions and they took the government to court. Whether they will go along with the plan now remains to be seen.
Socialist President Michelle Bachelet backed the morning after pill program and defended the government from criticism from the Catholic Church. Bachelet defended the decision as a way to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Chile, which prohibits abortions.
"My task, my obligation and my duty is to guarantee that all Chileans have real options in this area," she said.
Prior to the new program, the morning after pill was only available to women who were victims of rape and then only in pharmacies and not local clinics. The new program followed a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell Plan B over the counter.
Some 14 percent of teenagers in Chile become pregnant by the age of 14 and 40,000 babies are born every year to teenage moms. Still, the teen birth rate has dropped from 16 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2004.
The Chile government hopes to get the rate to lower to nine percent by giving away the morning after pills.
However, research studies in various nations show the morning after pill does not lower pregnancy rates and abortions in Scotland, where the drug was made available over the counter, increased after that decision there.